Over the last several years, the heroin epidemic has spread like wild fire. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 11.8 million Americans age 12 and older had abused opioids during the previous year. In 2016, it was reported that 626,000 Americans had a heroin use disorder.
What’s more alarming, however, is the number of heroin-related overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2010-2016, heroin-related deaths increased by more than five times. From 2015 to 2016, heroin overdose death rates increased by 19.5%, resulting in nearly 15,500 people dying in 2016.
Unfortunately for you, this isn’t distant news anymore. The heroin crisis has seeped into your life, taking root in your loved one and ruling their existence. Having to sit back and watch your loved one struggle with their heroin addiction is a true test of patience and faith. The manner in which heroin erodes their physical health and emotional state is a systematic destruction, driving them to neglect their better judgement and personal wellbeing for the sake of satisfying their addictive impulse to get high.
While some in society believe that a heroin addiction stems from character flaws and personal weakness, this sentiment could not be farther from the truth. The disease of addiction is recognized as a viable medical disorder, requiring clinical interventions from qualified clinical personnel. Talking to your loved one about their heroin addiction isn’t as simple as asking “why do you use?” From emotional instability to possible traumatic experiences, the motivating factors behind their heroin addiction can be complex and complicated with no singular reasoning or simplistic answer. Taking the time to research how heroin takes root within addicts and the actual signs of heroin addiction can prepare you to provide personal aid and assistance if and when your loved one looks to you for help.
Why Do People Use Heroin?
The reasons behind a person’s heroin addiction can be as fluid and varied as the individual struggling with the addiction itself. Understanding the influencing factors, and how they relate to your loved one’s heroin addiction, can provide direction and guidance when attempting to engage them in discussions of recovery and rehabilitation.
Many people struggling with heroin addiction begin their substance use innocently enough, perhaps through a viable prescription for pain medication, or taking a few pills from a friend for mild pain and discomfort. From there, the drug took root, driving them to consume more of the substance in order to achieve the desired effects and control their level of distress. Before they knew it, they were out of their prescriptions and searching for alternative methods of achieving their high. The only place they had left was back street connections, which can lead to them trying heroin for the first time (heroin is often cheaper than opioids, which makes it even more appealing to try for those struggling with addiction).
While research shows that nearly 80% of Americans who use heroin reported using prescription painkillers first, opioid abuse isn’t always the root cause for heroin addiction. There are various other reasons as to why your loved one might have started using. Some other common reasons people find themselves struggling with a heroin addiction include:
- To escape from their emotional pain and stress
- To satisfy an impulsive biological desire
- To fit in with a certain social group
- To experiment with substances
In all of these examples, heroin is being implemented as a solution to a perceived problem when, in reality, it is perpetuating the problem and exacerbating the negative consequences. For your loved one, their reasons for continuing their heroin addiction are rooted in excessive emotionality and habitual physical compulsion. Taking the time to discuss their addiction and how it began is the most effective way to begin formulating a plan to overcome their disease.
How Do I Talk to My Loved One About Their Heroin Abuse?
The process of identifying your loved one’s addiction and initiating a conversation regarding their health and happiness is easier said than done. You know that the longer the addiction continues, the greater the chance of the unspeakable happening. You want to connect with your loved one and talk with them about their heroin use. But how, you wonder, do you approach such a difficult and complex issue?
Figuring out where to start the dialogue is key to establishing a consistent line of communication and avoiding unnecessary conflict. While your impulse may be to rush into the conversation, taking the time to collect your thoughts and calmly approach the conversation is an excellent way to achieve a successful outcome. Use these seven tips to have a constructive conversation and help your loved one understand that they can release themselves from the shackles of heroin addiction.
1. Educate Yourself
When you’re on the outside looking in, heroin addiction can be near impossible to wrap your mind around – what it’s really like and what your loved one is feeling and going through. That’s why it’s imperative you do your own research about the drug and the addiction before you approach your loved one and request a sit-down talk. It can be helpful to:
- Read stories about former addicts. In addition to the facts and stats you find, it would be beneficial to read stories and testimonials from recovered heroin addicts. This will help you understand the addiction from a different, personal perspective and provide depth to your growing knowledge of the disease.
- Steer clear of opinions. Friends and family mean well and only want to help, but unsolicited opinions and advice can cloud your mind with incorrect information. Try to stick to the facts and focus on your mission of helping your loved one as best you can.
- Contact a heroin recovery expert. If you feel stuck as you prepare for your talk, or you wish to draw insight from a heroin recovery expert, get in touch with an addiction and recovery center. Experts can lend invaluable advice for your conversation.
- Research treatment options and facilities. Learn about the differences and benefits of in-state and out-of-state treatment facilities, assess the costs, and see if any treatment option is covered by your insurance.
2. Pick a Sober Time to Talk
The most effective conversation will flow from a clear mind (you) and a clean mind (your loved one). This may require some strategic planning on your part if your loved one uses at irregular times. It’s best to find a time when your loved one is not high, tired, stressed, and is of a calm, sound mind.
Try to have the conversation in a familiar, quiet room. This will help your loved one feel safe and support a focused, distraction-free talk.
3. Communicate Compassion & Support
Set the tone immediately by expressing your love and support for your loved one. As hard as it might be, try to remain composed, calm and in control of your emotions. The goal is to have your loved one react positively to your request to talk and favorably receive your thoughts and suggestions.
Without immediately calling out the heroin addiction, ease into the heart of the matter by disclosing your concern over your loved one’s transformed life. Let them know of the inconsistent, harmful behavior you’ve noticed and worry over their health and safety.
Once you’ve said your peace, let your loved one speak. If your loved one is willing to communicate, give them your full attention and do not interrupt. Your nonverbal communication will speak volumes and can help your loved one feel supported and not judged. Prepare for periods of silence, long pauses, denial and/or emotional moments.
4. Avoid Judgmental, Enabling Language
Your loved one is fighting a fierce fight, and deep down, they probably wish they could get clean. They probably feel guilty about what they’re putting you and your family through, but they’re stuck. Because of this raging internal conflict, addicts can quickly become defensive. Try to avoid judgmental comments and gestures.
Additionally, because your loved one is ruled by their addiction, their ability to follow through with promises and commitments is compromised. Do not try to bargain, bribe, or give incentives. Since heroin addiction must be met with professional recovery support, these actions will only set you and your loved one up for failure.
5. Gently Remind of the Consequences of Heroin Use
If you think it will help, inform your loved one of the stats you found during your research. As noted at the beginning of this article, heroin has been claiming lives at a dangerous rate. This insight could be a wake-up call for your loved one.
6. Emphasize All the People in their Corner
Your loved one is the only one addicted to heroin, but their choices, actions and behaviors have a severe ripple effect on your entire family and extended support system.
Call out specific times your loved one’s addiction had a negative affect on you and your family. From there, remind your loved one of everyone who loves them, supports them, and wants to see them recover and thrive.
7. Present Treatment Options
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs out there. Its more habit-forming than alcohol, crack, and other substances. This is why recovery from heroin addiction must be managed by medical and addiction professionals.
Present the viable treatment options you discovered during your research and ask your loved one if they would be willing to go to rehab. It’s okay if your loved one is not willing to go at first. Let the entire conversation sink in and follow up with your loved one in a few days to see how they’re doing and if they made any decisions.
Heroin Detox and Rehab at Ranch Creek Recovery
If your loved one is in the grips of heroin addiction, Ranch Creek Recovery can help. We offer a safe place where your loved one can receive one-on-one care for their heroin addiction and recover at their own pace. Learn more about our heroin addiction treatment program and contact us today to learn about our facility and holistic approach to addiction treatment.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Opioid Misuse in the Past Year. Accessed March 29, 2018. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm#opioid.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heroin Overdose Data. March 29, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html.